MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) — The number of billionaires in the world has grown to 2,325, rising by 155, or 7 percent, between June 2013 and June 2014, according to the second-annual Billionaire Census survey published by Swiss financial services company UBS AG.
The overall wealth of the world’s billionaires rose by 12 percent, reaching a record 7.3 trillion USD, or about 4 percent of total global wealth.
The study’s profiling of the “average billionaire” found that the typical billionaire is worth about 3.1 billion USD, is 64 years old, and male. Sixty percent of male billionaires are self-made, compared to 35 percent among women. There were only 286 female billionaires on the list, or about 12.5 percent.
About a third of the billionaires do not have a post-secondary education.
The top ten countries in terms of the number of billionaires are the US with 571, China with 190, the UK with 130, Germany with 123, Russia with 114, India with 100, Switzerland with 86, Hong Kong with 82, Brazil with 61, and Saudi Arabia with 57.
The top cities for billionaires include New York with 103 and Moscow with 85, followed by Hong Kong, London and Beijing.
By region, Europe’s 775 billionaires edged out North America this year, with 2.375 trillion USD in aggregate wealth, compared with North America’s 2.371 trillion USD, held by 609 people.
The billionaires amassed their fortunes in a number of different ways: 19 percent of billionaires did so through finance, banking, and investment, 12 percent made their money through business and industrial conglomerates, and 5 percent became wealthy through real estate.
When it comes to the distribution of billionaires’ assets, about 47 percent of their wealth is held in privately-owned businesses, 29 percent is invested in public companies, 19 percent is in cash, and 5 percent of their combined assets are in real estate and luxury assets.
Despite the global economic downturn and the ongoing fallout from the crisis that began in the late 2000s, the number of billionaires continues to grow as wealth continues to become more concentrated.
The UBS report says that in its best case scenario, there will be over 4,100 billionaires by 2020, 78 percent more than today. Even given its worst case scenario, the figure will still rise to 3,600, or by 56 percent.
Noting the concentration of wealth among the super wealthy, the study notes that “between 2011 and 2013, the growth of the wealth of the world’s billionaires accounted for 40 percent of the growth in total ultra-high net worth (UHNW) wealth –although billionaires only comprise 1 percent of the global UHNW population.”
A Credit Suisse report published last year noted that one percent of the world’s population alone holds 46 percent of the world’s wealth, with the top 10 percent holding 86 percent, or 208 of the world’s 241 trillion USD in wealth. To be among the top 10 percent, one needs to hold about 75,000 USD in total assets.
Explaining the continued and dramatic expansion of wealth, Yahoo Finance columnist Michael Santoli said that it is “the result of globalization and bigger and bigger markets for entrepreneurs, for investors, and for people who have assets,” and of the concentration of “private empires of businesses.” Santoli also noted that a great deal of super-wealth creation occurs “through a sort of one-time bonanza, selling a company for a billion dollars.”
Addressing the negative social consequences of ever-increasing inequality and wealth concentration, the Guardian’s Danny Dorling noted the tendency among the super wealthy to “see people beneath [them] as less deserving,” and the phenomenon of people ‘sizing up’ of one another based strictly on material status. He also voiced his opposition to the oft-cited conception of the ultra-rich as ‘job creators’, arguing that in crisis-ridden North America and Western Europe, including Britain, which has witnessed double-digit jobless rates, they do not deserve this title, or their ever-increasing wealth.
Dorling notes that a century ago, inequality similarly peaked in British society, after which the “world was changed by external events,” including the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and other events which eventually resulted in policies such as progressive taxation, unionization, and the rise of government social programs, which reduced inequality and cut the ultra-wealthy’s income in half by 1939. The wealth gap began to grow again in the 1980s; in 1987, when Forbes published its first list, there were only 140 billionaires in the world.
UBS’ full report can be found here.